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Tamil Nadu’s tableau depicting the state’s freedom fighters was rejected by the Ministry of Defence for the upcoming Republic Day parade. Although the tableau suited the theme for this year’s parade—India@75 – Freedom Struggle, and featured our home-grown Independence heroes Subramaniya Bharathi, V O Chidambaram Pillai, Rani Velunachi and her generals Maruthu brothers, Tamil Nadu’s entry did not make it. But the state has managed to get its tableaus on Rajpath for the ceremony several times in the last two decades.
Among the South Indian states, Tamil Nadu has not been as prolific a producer of R-Day tableaus as its neighbors Kerala and Karnataka. These two states have been selected multiple times and got the chance to show off their cultural heritage. Despite Tamil Nadu and the Telugu states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, having rich cultures of their own, they were perhaps not competitive enough to get their entries in more often.
Among the South Indian states, Tamil Nadu has not been as prolific a producer of R-Day tableaus as its neighbors Kerala and Karnataka. These two states have been selected multiple times.
Yet, between 2000 and 2021, Tamil Nadu did succeed in presenting its tableau nine times at the Republic Day Parade.
In the year 2000, terracotta art was the highlight of the Tamil Nadu tableau. A huge statue of the regional guardian deity Ayyanar and terracotta dolls depicting the typical village life of the state were featured.
After a long gap, Tamil Nadu presented the car festival tableau in 2006. Car processions are part and parcel of all the festivals of temples as well as catholic churches in Tamil Nadu.
After three years, in 2009 the state presented Therukoothu, the street drama enacted in the villages during village festivals, as part of its tableau. A scene from the Mahabharata in which Draupadi dignity was violated was depicted in the Therukoothu.
After a lull of four years, Tamil Nadu presented the richness of its harvest festival Pongal during the Republic Day parade in 2014. It was a typical scene of the festivities in a village setup.
The tribal culture of the Nilgiris featured in the 2016 Tamil Nadu tableau, with a colorful dance and three-dimensional pictures creating visual impact. The 2017 tableau was one of the most colorful of Tamil Nadu’s R-Day parade entries. It depicted the folk dance Karakattam with actual dancers and giant dolls with a karagam on heads.
However, it was a no show again in the next year, 2018.
In 2019, the Ministry of Defence, which picks the tableaus, selected the theme 150th Year of Mahatma Gandhi, in memory of his birth anniversary. Tamil Nadu’s tableau that year depicted the decisive moment in which Gandhi changed his dressing style from typical Gujarati attire to just a dhoti and shawl. The transformation had occurred at a house in Madurai on September 22, 1921. The tableau showcased the house and Gandhi’s new dressing style, which had become his hallmark for the rest of his life.
That tableau, however, ran into controversy for displaying statues of women without blouses on the float. It was contested whether women in 1921 had begun wearing blouses in Tamil Nadu or not.
In 2020, Tamil Nadu promoted its ‘Gramia kalai’ (village art) through its tableau. An Ayyanar statue featured once more, along with a variety of folk dances that the state is famous for.
Last year, it was the third consecutive time that Tamil Nadu had become part of the tableau display. The architecture of the Pallava dynasty, illustrated by a 3D model of the epic shore temple of Mamallapuram, made up the float. That year, all the states featured its temples and religious monuments, and Uttar Pradesh won the first prize for a model of the proposed design for the Ram temple at Ayodhya.
On the awards front, Tamil Nadu won second prize for its Pongal tableau in 2014, and shared third prize for its tableau on Karakattam with Maharashtra in 2017. The first prize has been evading the state since 1980.
Tamil Nadu won second prize for its Pongal tableau in 2014, and shared third prize for its tableau on Karakattam with Maharashtra in 2017. The first prize has been evading the state since 1980.
Commenting on the recent tableau controversy, a retired senior official from the Information and Public Relations department said that the selection of a tableau depends on the skill of the department’s officials. Once the Ministry of Defence invites applications from state governments based on a theme, the state information and public relations department prepares charts and designs for approval from the ministry. The selection goes through two stages with many rounds of deliberations. Only the best ideas and models should be put forth to ensure a spot, because the competition is very tough. All the states compete, but only the best designs get an opportunity, he said.
The Republic Parade is held within a time frame of two hours, which is why the Ministry of Defence limits the entries by shortlisting the best tableaus from the states and union territories, the official added.
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